Personal Loans

LendingTree Personal Loan Index for the Week of Sept. 13, 2020

The LendingTree Personal Loan Index is a real-time snapshot of how Americans seek to use this financial product, and whether lenders can meet demand in a time of economic uncertainty and financial crisis for many households and businesses.

The various metrics are indexed to the week beginning Jan. 5, 2020, and are based on the personal loan inquiries received on the LendingTree personal loan platform every week.

“It was largely a status quo week with LendingTree’s Personal Loan Index. We’ve seen a lot of those recently, and we’ll likely continue to in the coming weeks. That’s because while unemployment is still high and the economy has a long way to go toward recovery, there seems to be less volatility today than there was in those chaotic early months of the pandemic. There are plenty of possible disruptions out there, from a resurgence of COVID to a contested election and beyond, but for now, the patterns we’ve seen recently in the personal loan space seem likely to continue.” — Matt Schulz, chief industry analyst

Weekly highlights
Weekly changes in…

The reasons people are seeking personal loans
Personal loan inquiries, lender matching and lender offers
Personal loan amount requests and offered amounts from lenders
Best APRs offered to prospective borrowers
Average spreads between the highest and lowest offers to the same borrowers
Borrowing trends by employment status
Reasons people are seeking personal loans at the state level

Highlights from previous weeks
Methodology

Weekly highlights

The number of organic personal loan inquiries on the LendingTree platform dropped slightly to an index value of 55, from 56 during the week beginning Sept. 13. Values have hovered in the mid-fifties since late May — excepting some volatility during July — immediately preceding the expiration of the unemployment supplement. People with credit scores of at least 720 maintained the same index value from last week. The distribution of loan reasons were nearly unchanged from the previous week.

Once again, the likelihood of receiving an offer declined a bit, despite an increased likelihood of matching lender criteria. This is somewhat curious, given that the declines came disproportionately from subprime borrowers. Those with scores of at least 720 had a slightly higher offer rate.

The best offered APRs were down or the same, except for those with scores between 680 and 719. That group saw a significant drop the previous week (117), and this week’s change (124) brings them more in line with where they were the previous week (129) — although still an impressive five index points lower.

Weekly changes in…

The reasons people are seeking personal loans
Personal loan inquiries, lender matching and lender offers
Personal loan amount requests and offered amounts from lenders
Best APRs offered to prospective borrowers
Average spreads between the highest and lowest offers to the same borrowers
Borrowing trends by employment status
Reasons people are seeking personal loans at the state level

The reasons people are seeking personal loans

Personal loan inquiries, lender matching and lender offers

Personal loan amount requests and offered amounts from lenders

Best APRs offered to prospective borrowers

Average spreads between the highest and lowest offers to the same borrowers

Borrowing trends by employment status


Reasons people are seeking personal loans at the state level

Highlights from previous weeks

Week of September 6

The number of potential borrowers inquiring about personal loans on the LendingTree platform rose during the week beginning Sept. 6 to an index value of 56 from 54. However, the number of people with credit scores of at least 720 dropped from an index value of 82 to 79. Most of the gains in new inquiries were from subprime borrowers, which probably explains why borrowers were less likely to receive offers than the previous week.

APRs were down for borrowers with scores between 620 and 719 and unchanged for those with scores under 620. Borrowers with scores of least 720 saw their best offered rates increase for the second week in a row. Moreover, the spread between the highest and lowest offers grew for this group, showing that the increase was even greater at the top. Meanwhile, the spread shrunk for borrowers with scores between 680 and 719 while best APRs fell by a dramatic 12 index points to 117, meaning that the top end fell even more.

People with scores of at least 720 are still receiving better offers, on average. This trend could be because borrowers in the higher score band are more likely to request loans for traditionally discretionary purposes — such as home improvements and wedding expenses — than for debt consolidation and credit card refinancing, which is more common among borrowers in the 680-719 band.

Week of August 30

The number of potential borrowers inquiring about personal loans rose during the week beginning Aug. 30 to an index value of 54 from 52. Moreover, those borrowers were more likely to match lender criteria and to receive an offer than in the previous week. The effect was especially pronounced for those with credit scores of at least 720, as the index values for inquiries that matched criteria rose by six points, to 79, and that received offers by eight points, to 84, while the value for overall inquiries from borrowers rose by five points, to 82.

However, terms are not as favorable for most borrowers. The best offered APRs are up for borrowers except those with scores between 680 and 719. The average amount requested by all borrowers dropped by two points, to 107 and by three points, to 97 for those with scores of at least 720. Meanwhile, amounts offered have been hovering at the same levels as the prior week: 87 for all borrowers and 88 (up one point) for the higher score consumers.

The biggest change is why people are borrowing this week. Over the last few weeks, changes in the number of inquiries have been relatively evenly distributed across the purposes we track, but that changed during the week beginning Aug. 30: Gains in inquiries for debt consolidation and credit card refinancing represent 131% of the overall increase in inquiries. Historically, most inquiries on our platform have been for that purpose, but they slipped below the 50% mark in June. Although too soon to tell, we’ve anticipated a recovery following the expiration of the $600 unemployment supplement on July 31 and it may take a billing cycle or two for consumers to seek out ways to reduce their monthly payments, barring additional stimulus payments.

Week of August 23

The number of people seeking personal loans dropped for the second week in a row to an index value of 52 from 55. Concerningly for consumers, despite being slightly more likely to match lender criteria, the rate of potential borrowers who received offers from lenders dropped to the lowest level since late March. However, this requires some context: Potential borrowers have been more likely to receive offers than they were prior to the onset of the coronavirus crisis, yet with worse terms than those who received offers in the first 11 weeks. The best APRs offered to different credit score bands jumped during the week of March 22 and the divide in index values between the average amounts requested and the amounts offered began to widen dramatically during the week of April 5.

The number of people with credit scores of at least 720 who sought loans fell off more sharply to an index value of 77 from 82. In contrast to the aggregate of potential borrowers, this group was more likely to receive offers compared to the previous week. Nonetheless, the number of offers made to these borrowers was down four index points, week over week, to 73.

During the week beginning August 23, borrowers requested more money on average, while lenders offered the same as the previous week. Borrowers with scores of at least 720 requested the same amount of money but were offered less; the index value of offered loan amounts dropped four points to 87 for these borrowers.

Week of August 16

The number of people seeking personal loans dropped to 55 during the week beginning August 16, from an index value of 56 in the week of August 9. The decline was limited to two intended loan uses: business expenses and credit card refinancing and debt consolidation.

The number of people who inquired about loans for businesses purposes dropped off from the year’s highest index value of 126 in the previous week to the still unusually high value of 114. The number of people seeking loans to consolidate their debt or refinance their credit cards dropped to an index value of 40 from 44. Traditionally, debt consolidation and credit card refinancing are the most common reason people seek personal loans on the LendingTree platform, but the percentage of inquiries for this purpose was the lowest of the year at 41.4%, and just one percentage point more than the “all other” category. Meanwhile, the number of people seeking loans for home improvements and major purchases actually rose during the week of August 9, while the number who planned to finance vacations and weddings was unchanged.

For borrowers with credit scores of at least 720, lenders dropped the best offered APRs to the lowest rates since the week of May 3, yet were more selective than the previous week in other ways. While these borrowers were a bit more likely to match lender criteria, they were actually a bit less likely to receive an offer than in the previous week. Similarly, these borrowers increased their average requested loan amounts from an index value of 97 to 100, yet the average amount they were offered by lenders stayed at an index value of 91, week over week.

In a potentially concerning turn, the percentage of prospective borrowers who are fully employed has dropped to the lowest level of the year, at 69.4%. The proportion of borrowers who were fully employed actually rose at the start of the coronavirus crisis in the U.S. and only started to drop to pre-crisis levels (between 70% and 72%) in mid-July. Self-employed and unemployed borrowers have taken a greater share in recent weeks. Given the unusually high volume of loans for business purposes, it’s unlikely that self-employed is being used as a common euphemism for unemployment.

Week of August 9

The number of borrowers seeking personal loans rose for the second week in a row during the week beginning August 9 to an index value of 56, following three straight weeks of decline. Their likelihood of matching lender criteria and receiving offers was somewhat lower, but that could be in part because of the gains in loan queries that came somewhat disproportionately from subprime borrowers. Borrowers with credit scores of at least 720 also increased their queries, reaching an index value of 83, and were actually more likely to receive an offer, despite matching lender criteria at roughly the same rate.

Almost half of those gains went to people wishing to refinance credit cards or consolidate debt. We continue to see an usually high number of inquiries for business expenses — in fact, we received more inquiries for that purpose than during any other week this year. This elevation is especially striking considering how depressed inquiries have been since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, overall.

Amounts requested dropped to an index value of 106 — this is one of only two weeks since February when amounts requested were this low. Offered amounts fell proportionately. Those with scores of at least 720 also requested less money.

It should be pointed out that over the last several months, borrower interest — and the amounts requested — have followed the same rise and fall pattern across the weeks for prime, midprime and subprime. (These ranges correspond to 680 and higher, 620 to 679, and below 620, respectively.) This suggests that external forces are a factor in the ebb and flow of the personal loan market, regardless of traditional measures of creditworthiness.

Week of August 2

The best APRs offered to potential borrowers were up for all credit bands, except for those with scores between 620 and 639. The spread between the average highest and lowest offers made to those borrowers jumped to their highest levels of the year, meaning that the ceiling rose faster than the floor. This is likely a bad sign for personal loan interest rates going forward, but things have been harder to predict since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

Borrower inquiries for personal loans on the LendingTree platform rose a bit during the week beginning Aug. 2, but did not make up for the drop-off that began during the week of July 12. Prospective borrowers were only slightly less likely to match lender criteria or receive offers than in the prior week.

Prospective borrowers also requested less money than in the previous three weeks and the amounts offered declined in tandem, on average. It’s notable that over the last 12 weeks lenders appear to have changed offered amounts in reaction to the amounts requested, rather than setting a standard bar (at least in the aggregate). Amounts requested for those with credit scores of at least 720 have remained quite stable since the beginning of July.

We continue to see an unusually large proportion of inquiries from people seeking loans to fund business expenses. This may be a concerning sign in the current environment — both because current, struggling businesses are cut off from other sources of funding, and because some of these inquiries are coming from unemployed and part-time employed people who may be out of other options to make ends meet.

Week of July 26

Loan inquiries through organic channels fell for the third week in a row by 10% to an index value of 48. That’s the lowest value since the week of May 10, when consumer interest began to recover from the nadir during the week beginning April 26. The 11% drop-off for borrowers with credit scores of at least 720 was even more striking: their index value of 76 is the lowest of the year. This seems to be more of a general trend rather than one related to changes in a particular kind of spending as the proportion of reasons potential borrowers sought loans remained within a percentage point compared to the previous two weeks. It remains to be seen how low the number of loan inquiries can go, but much will likely depend on several factors. These can include whether Congress passes another relief package, the spread of the coronavirus and subsequent shutdown orders and if parents leave the workforce to look after their school-age children.

The lack of competition seemed to serve well the borrowers who did inquire about personal loans: The best APRs offered to them were lower than in the previous week and they were more likely to receive an offer. In fact, rates were the lowest they’ve been since mid-March for those with credit scores between 640 and 719. While a positive development, rates remain very high.

Lenders are also offering more money, on average, then they were last week, while borrowers are requesting the same. This made a dent in the gap between the two index values that has been extremely wide since mid-April and pulled even further apart over the previous two weeks. The gap has only grown wider during June and July, so this may be a good sign for consumers, although borrowers with credit scores of at least 720 asked for slightly more and borrowers offered slightly less, opening the gap for that group somewhat.

Week of July 19

We saw a 16% decrease in the number of loan inquiries during the week of July 19 compared to the week of July 12. This also represents a 20% decrease from the week of July 5, which had the highest volume of inquiries since late March. The fall off for those with credit scores of at least 720 was half as large, at 8%. Uncertainty around the coronavirus pandemic, job security, school openings and civil unrest may be amplifying a typical seasonal pattern; we saw a decrease in personal loan interest in the second half of July 2019, as spending for trips, weddings and home projects are often financed earlier in the season, but the dip wasn’t nearly as dramatic then.

The upside for consumers is that they were more likely to receive offers from lenders and the best offers carried lower APRs than the previous week for all credit tiers. The downside is that they’re being offered less money; the gap between the average amounts requested and average amounts offered skyrocketed to 31 index points as prospective borrowers requested more in the week of July 19 than in the previous week while lenders reduced their offered amounts in the same period. For context, the week of July 12 saw the previous largest gap of the year at 25 index points, while the previous three weeks also broke the annual record with a gap of 20 points. However, the gap for those with credit scores of at least 720 has been much smaller and relatively stable over the last several weeks.

Inquiries for various purposes decreased in proportional manner, such that there wasn’t much change in the percentage of inquiries for the various tracked purposes, although credit card refinancing and debt consolidation took just over a percentage point of share from the “other” catch-all category.

Week of July 12

The number of personal loan inquiries dipped during the week of July 12 compared to the previous week. Nonetheless, the index value of 63 is the second highest since the week of March 29, behind the week of July 5. Unfortunately, borrowers were less likely to match borrower criteria or receive an offer than they were in the prior week. Loan inquiries from people with credit scores of at least 720 also came down a bit, week over week, but the percentage who received offers dropped more than for prospective borrowers, overall.

The gap between average amounts requested and average amounts offered grew to 25 index points – far and away the largest of the year. The average amount offered stayed the same, but the amount requested jumped five index points to 111.

The number of inquiries for loans to cover business expenses skyrocketed to the highest value of the year – 118 index points. This is especially striking given that inquiries are at 63, overall. This purpose still only constitutes 3% of inquiries but may explain why fewer inquiries received offers: many small businesses remain risky propositions in the current environment. Credit card refinancing and debt consolidation, which usually make up a sizable majority of inquiry purposes, is down to 43% of the total.

Week of July 5

The number of personal loan inquiries received during the week beginning July 5 rose to equal those received early in the coronavirus crisis during the week of March 22. Back then, inquiries were sliding downward before bottoming out at the end of April. This week’s increase of nine index points is the largest jump since the beginning of the crisis.

Lenders also increased their availability – measured in the number of inquiries that matched lender criteria and the number that received offers from lenders – but not to the same degree. However, for prime borrowers the rate of inquiries that received offers was unchanged, and the overall decline is likely because much of the gain came from subprime borrowers. While lenders did offer more offers to subprime borrowers in absolute terms, these consumers were less likely to receive an offer. The loan amounts requested are down a bit, but the gap in index points between amounts requested and amounts offered remains persistently large.

The lowest APRs offered to consumers are moving in the right direction for borrowers with lower credit scores but remain unusually high for borrowers with more desirable credit profiles. In fact, borrowers with scores under 640 received slightly better best offers than they did in the first week of the year. Offers were essentially unchanged for those with scores between 640 and 719, week over week, and down 2% for those with scores of at least 720, but that’s still 30% higher than for the first week of the year. That is especially remarkable given the rock-bottom rates available to high-score borrowers of secured debt.

The variation, or spread, in offers received by the same borrowers remains extremely large, meaning that as high as the best offers are for prime borrowers, plenty of lenders are offering them significantly worse rates.

Changes in demand for loan purposes
  • Consumers hoping to borrow for home improvement projects skyrocketed to an index value of 120 – the highest of the year.
  • Inquiries for major purchases, which could include things like home appliances, rose to the highest level of the year, if only slightly ahead of the week of January 5.
  • Strikingly, the number of inquiries for loans to cover business costs were the second highest of the year, tied with the week of March 15, when many businesses scrambled in the immediate aftermath of mandated shutdowns.
  • The continuous reports of coronavirus cases in several states doesn’t seem to have dampened inquiries for vacations and weddings, which continued to rise during the week of July 5.

Week of June 28

Inquiries from potential borrowers seeking personal loans rose again during the week beginning June 28. However, the number of borrowers that matched lender requirements and the number that received offers fell a bit from the previous week. In other words, potential borrowers were less likely to receive offers, despite prime borrowers representing a disproportionate share of the gain in inquiries. The index value for inquiries is the highest since the week of March 29. The number of inquiries from people with credit scores of at least 720 increased but sits below the recent peak in the weeks beginning May 31 and June 7.

Both average amounts requested and average amounts offered dropped by one index point. Those with scores of at least 720, however, increased the average amount from the previous week, though the average amount offered dropped. This is the third week out of the last four where the index value gap between amounts requested and offered was 10 points for this group of borrowers.

Best offered APRs were down for all but those with credit scores between 640 and 679. Those with scores between 680 and 719 were offered the lowest rates they’ve seen since the week of March 15 – yet best offered rates were 24% lower at that time. However, the average spread between highest and lowest offers received by this group spiked 8% from the previous week. While more lenders are willing to offer this group better terms, plenty are offering worse terms.

Inquiries to fund vacations and weddings continued to rise to levels not seen since early March. Fewer people wanted loans for home improvements, but the number of inquiries to cover business costs rose dramatically. We don’t know whether these business owners hope to expand their businesses or are desperate to keep the lights on.

Week of June 21

Inquiries from potential borrowers seeking personal loans recovered during the week beginning June 21, reverting to the same index value as the week of June 7. As of now, the downturn in consumer interest during the week of June 14 remains a mysterious aberration; we’d otherwise seen an upward trend over the months of May and June compared to April. Much of this week’s recovery was from subprime borrowers, however, and the rate of inquiries from those with credit scores of at least 720 remain at the same depressed level of the previous week.

Amounts requested dropped 5% from the previous week. Borrowers across all major credit profile tiers were interested in borrowing less money. Lenders offered those with scores of at least 720 the same amount of money as in the previous week, which helped to chip away the gap between average offered and requested index values, lowering it from 10 points to four. However, lenders reduced the average amount they were willing to loan to all borrowers, which grew that gap to 20 index points – the largest of the year.

Best offered APRs fell for those with scores under 680 and remained unchanged for those with scores of at least 680. This is one of only two weeks since the onset of the coronavirus crisis that best offered rates didn’t rise for at least one credit tier (May 17 was the other). However, not every lender was as generous with their terms, and the spread between highest and lowest average offers jumped for the same credit tiers who saw their best offers improve.

Index values for the selected loan purposes we track rose across the board, with home improvement seeing the biggest jump – albeit not to where it was in late May and early June. Loans for wedding and vacations continue to recover, which is always a sign of optimism about the future. More concerning is the rise in inquiries to pay for business expenses, as this indicates that business owners may not have access to their traditional capital sources. Self-employed consumers made up a slightly larger share of our inquiry base, and this may be why.

Week of June 14

Borrower interest in personal loans dropped during the week beginning June 14 for the first time since the start of May. The number of loan inquiries fell by four index points, or 7%, since the previous week, to the same value we saw in the week beginning May 24. Interestingly, the number of inquiries that match lender criteria moved in harmony and now also equals the week beginning May 24, while the rate of borrowers who received offers is somewhat higher. The drop-off for those with scores of at least 720 was seven points, or 8%, and their offer rate is a bit lower than it was in the prior two weeks. Average amounts requested and offered were fairly stable, week over week.

While there were reductions across all of the major loan purposes that we track, inquiries for home improvements plummeted from 108 to 87 in the course of a single week and major purchases fell from 91 to 79. Interest in loans to fund vacations and weddings fell seven points after picking up steam over the last few weeks. Nonetheless, its index value of 39 is the second highest only to the previous week of June 7 across a 13-week period. Given that inquiries for credit card refinancing and loan consolidation had a disproportionately small drop of two points, it seems that consumers are particularly backing away from discretionary debt, but it’s too early to tell whether they’re making up the difference by opening or charging up credit cards. Given that roughly 75% of our inquiries come from fully employed people, it seems unlikely that people are battening down the hatches ahead of the coronavirus relief package’s unemployment compensation expiration on July 31.

Best offered APRs came down for all but those with scores under 620. The changes were modest for most, but those with scores between 620 and 639 were offered the best rates since the week of March 15.

New index added for the average offer spread

This week we added an index that tracks the average offer spread – that is, the difference in basis points between the highest and lowest offers users receive, on average, by credit score range. The results are jarring and demonstrate that the personal loan industry has a long way to go before it reaches the kind of staid predictability we saw prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

Spreads are relatively low for those at the top and bottom end of the credit profile spectrum (those with scores of at least 720 and those with scores under 620). Currently however, these spreads are high for those with “fair” and “good” scores – even double what they were in the first week of March for those with scores between 680 and 719. We’ve noted before that lenders have handled these groups erratically, with best offered APRs that bounce up and down from week to week. The much larger than usual spreads between their highest and lowest offers indicate that different lenders have different underwriting criteria (or stomachs) for the same borrowers, and don’t seem to be relying on the same non-score criteria to rate potential borrowers.

Week of June 7

The lowest APRs offered to prospective personal loan borrowers in the LendingTree marketplace rose substantially during the week beginning June 7. Best offered APRs declined following the week of May 10, but current rates are more in line with that week. Those with credit scores of at least 720 were the exception, as they’ve been sitting with the highest rates of the year for the second week in a row. APRs for those with credit scores between 640 and 679 rose by seven index points, as did those with scores between 680 and 719. That represents a growth of 5% and 6%, respectively. These two bands of borrowers have been treated pretty erratically through the crisis, but those with scores between 680 and 719 have seen their best offered APRs yo-yo dramatically from week to week.

The amounts requested by borrowers across all credit profiles reverted back to roughly what they were after dropping during the week of May 31. Lenders have hovered around the same index number for offered amounts for the three week period beginning May 24 despite the fluctuations in amounts requested.

While consumers have varied in how much they would like to borrow during the coronavirus pandemic, in April lenders dropped the amounts they were willing to offer relative to the amount requested – and that negative gap may be the new normal. The difference between amounts requested and offered was the largest of the year for those with scores of at least 720. The average amount requested by this group of prospective borrowers rose by seven index points, yet the average amount offered to them only rose by two points.

The number of people seeking personal loans crept up by one point, and lender availability remained virtually unchanged from the previous week. Loan inquiries for vacations and wedding expenses rose 32% since the prior week. With an index value of 46, the numbers are still low, yet it’s 146% more than the number of inquiries for these purposes during the first week of May. The number of people who sought loans for home improvement projects jumped yet again, making the week of June 7 the third week in a row with more inquiries for that purpose than at any other time during the calendar year; the number of inquiries was 6% higher than the same week in 2019.

Week from May 31

Consumers who completed a personal loan inquiry were more likely to receive a lender offer in the week beginning May 31 than at any other point in 2020, despite being somewhat less likely to match lender criteria than before the coronavirus pandemic. This follows the trend through May of increasing inquiries that match lender criteria and that receive offers.

While still only 55% of what they were in the first full week of 2020, the number of personal loan inquiries continued to rise since hitting the low point in the week of April 26. In the week beginning May 31, those with credit scores of 720 or higher produced the same number of inquiries as the average number of inquiries in the month of February.

Requested loan amounts are down to their lowest levels since February. Average amounts offered by lenders are at their lowest level of the year, but the index value gap between amounts requested and offered is smaller than the previous three weeks. The effect is even more pronounced for those with credit scores of at least 720; they requested less, on average, than any week this year, except for the week of January 26. The amounts offered to this group were the lowest of the year, yet again the gap was smaller than in the prior two weeks.

Best offered APRs remain high compared to earlier in the year

Best offered APRs ticked up for all credit bands except 640 to 679, but they were actually extremely stable compared to other weeks this year. Overall, there was a change of seven combined index points during the week of May 31, which makes it one of only three weeks in the year to see a single digit change in combined values; the other two were the weeks of February 16 and 23, which had nine index points each.

However, offered rates are nowhere near where they were at the beginning of the year, especially for prime borrowers who received best offers 35% higher than during the first week of the year. Compared to the last week in February, rates for those with scores between 680 and 719 were 38% higher and 41% higher for those with scores over 720. Best offered rates for the former group are down 87 index points from their breathtaking peak during the week of March 29, but they were the highest of the year for the latter group. Best offered rates for those with scores below 680 are also down considerably from their peaks during the week of April 5.

Who is looking to borrow for which purposes

The percentage of prospective borrowers who are fully employed climbed yet again to the highest level of the year. Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, the fully employed have taken up a larger share of the inquiries received on the LendingTree platform. Nearly half of them hope to consolidate existing debt or pay down credit cards.

Loan inquiries for business expenses spiked during the week of May 31. It’s possible this is in response to the pressure put on local businesses by nationwide civil unrest, but 57% of these inquiries came from people who identified as fully employed, while another 31% came from those who said they were self-employed. Inquiries for weddings and vacations continue upwards, suggesting a level of optimism from American consumers.

Week from May 24

The week beginning May 24 was the second week in a row with positive trends for personal loan consumers and lenders, although we’re nowhere near pre-pandemic levels. It remains to be seen whether the recent nationwide civil unrest will have an effect.

Amounts requested are the lowest since the second week of March, with an index value of 115. The amounts offered only had an index value of 98, but that’s about the same proportion of offered to requested as the previous two weeks. The gap between amounts requested and amounts offered index values really started to open up in the middle of April, when the index value for amounts requested hit its peak at an index value of 127. Lenders have decided to keep that gap wide, even as amounts requested dropped.

Personal loan inquiries continued to grow in May to their highest level since the first week of April, but still a third less than the first week of March. Lenders’ criteria matching and offers from lenders have maintained the same proportion as the previous week, another sign of lenders finding their equilibrium in the current environment. The number of inquiries from those with scores of at least 720 remained largely unchanged over the last three weeks of May, and within the same range they were in mid-February. Lending matching and offers were unchanged.

Best offered APRs dropped for all credit score bands, except for 720 and above, who were offered the second highest rates of the year so far. The highest rate offered was two weeks prior in the week that began May 10. Recent rate declines for other score bands haven’t come close to undoing the spike in loan costs that began in late March, but are encouraging and should fit the needs of more borrowers.

Loans for home improvement surge, debt consolidation loans slowly recovering

Loan inquiries for home improvement charged forth to the highest number of the year so far. Overall, they represent less than 7% of inquiries.

For the second week in a row, the number of people seeking loans to refinance their cards or consolidate debt rose after falling each week between March 22 and April 19 and then holding flat for four weeks. These prospective borrowers comprise 50% of the inquiry pool, but they floated in the 55% to 60% range prior to the COVID-19 crisis. Meanwhile, inquiries for vacations and weddings have been slowly climbing in May but jumped 19% during the week of May 24 from the previous week. This week’s index value of 32 is 68% higher than the lowest value of 19 in the week of April 26.

The vast majority of new inquiries came from fully employed people, raising their proportion of inquiries to the highest in the year so far, at just under 76.6%.

Week of May 17

Personal loan inquiries rose during the week of May 17. While there were half the amount of inquiries than at the start of the year, they’re beginning to approach levels we haven’t seen since early April — and it’s possible that consumer interest in personal loans hit its lowest point in late April. Meanwhile, potential borrowers remain unusually likely to receive an offer, despite being less likely to match lender criteria than they were before the crisis. Inquiries from those with credit scores of at least 720 were slightly down, and they were somewhat less likely to match lender criteria or receive offers.

In a first since the start of the coronavirus crisis, the best offered APRs dropped for all credit bands — except for subprime borrowers, who have received the same rates, on average, for three weeks. That, combined with increased offer rates within a smaller pool of borrowers meeting criteria, suggests that lenders are growing more confident in their underwriting and/or they’re having a harder time getting these borrowers to sign on the dotted line. Nonetheless, APRs are still extremely elevated compared to before the crisis.

Amounts requested dropped significantly, from an index value of 125 during the week of May 10 to 119 during the week of May 17. Amounts offered dropped correspondingly, sitting at the lowest index value since the first full week of the year, when the amounts-requested value was 19 index points lower. Borrowers with scores of at least 720 didn’t change their requested loan amounts, on average, but lenders offered less than in the previous week. Perhaps lenders are calibrating the risk associated with more offers and lower APRs by reducing the amount of money to individual borrowers.

The number of borrowers seeking loans for home improvements was greater than any week this year — except one — and is virtually identical to the same week last year. Inquiries for major purchase loans are coming in at about the same clip that they were in February and early March, while loan inquiries for weddings and vacations have ticked up modestly to their highest level since the week of March 15.

Seventy-six percent of prospective borrowers are fully employed, while 3% are unemployed. Unemployed consumers were the most likely to seek loans for weddings and vacations, and the second most likely to seek loans for business purposes (behind those who are self-employed). Some out-of-work people may be taking this opportunity to start their own businesses or see it as their best financial hope under current conditions.

Week of May 10

We are adding a new feature to our series to track certain trends by the employment status of prospective borrowers. Seventy-seven percent of prospective borrowers on the LendingTree platform were fully employed during the week of May 10 — the highest ratio of the year. Prior to the coronavirus crisis, the ratio of full-time employees hovered between 70% and 72%, and the recent increase defies conventional thinking about who is seeking out these kinds of debt products.

We also look at the reasons why people with different employment statuses are seeking loans, and how much they would like to borrow. About half of all full-time employees want to pay down cards or consolidate their existing debt, while another 7% are jumping on the home improvement bandwagon. The group most likely to seek home improvement loans is “all other,” and this would include retirees, homemakers and the like. Unsurprisingly, self-employed consumers are the most likely to borrow for business funding; in addition, they and full-time employees request the highest loan amounts. Fifty-three percent of part-time employees and 59% of unemployed prospective borrowers are borrowing for other reasons, which may include things like paying bills.

Overall, borrowers’ activity remained unchanged from last week, as they had the same number of personal loan inquiries, lender matches and lender offer rate during the week of May 10 as they did a week prior. This is the first time when any of these index values were unchanged, week-over-week, let alone all three series. However, those with credit scores of at least 720 ticked up to essentially what they were two weeks prior.

The best offered APRs for people with scores over 720 rose to record levels this week, and those with scores between 680 and 719 haven’t seen rates this high since early April. In fact, this group of borrowers has had the highest index value in every week save one since March 15, despite yo-yoing up and down each week since mid-April. While best offered APRs for other borrowers did decrease or stay the same, they still remain very elevated compared to the pre-coronavirus period, and overall it’s costing borrowers more to borrow less than they would like to.

Amounts offered to borrowers trended downward, even as amounts requested rose, tying the week of April 12 for the biggest point gap between the two metrics this year; notably, in the week of April 12, the values for both amount requested and amount offered were higher. For context, the index value of amounts requested was the same two weeks prior (125), yet the value for amounts offered two weeks ago was five points higher than the week of May 10 (106 versus 111, on April 26). The gap between amounts requested and amounts offered also widened somewhat for borrowers with scores over 720, reversing the previous trend over the last two weeks, when the gaps nearly disappeared.

Week of May 3

Borrowers submitted roughly the same number of personal loan inquiries in the week beginning May 3 that they did in the preceding three weeks, with index values in the high forties. Index values for those with scores of at least 720 are significantly higher at 86 — slightly down from last week, but up from the year’s low during the week of April 19.

Borrowers were more likely to receive offers than they’ve been at any other week this year, yet they were less likely to match lender criteria than they were prior to the week of March 22. This is a change in pattern from the first two months of the year — when the index values for inquiries matching lender criteria were larger than values for inquiries receiving offers — and may indicate that lenders expect borrowers to turn away offers at higher-than-usual rates.

The index value for people seeking home improvement loans is 91, nearly double the index value for all inquiries (47). Similarly, the index value for major purchases jumped to 80 from 72 during the week beginning April 26. Half of inquirers plan to use their loans for credit card refinancing and debt consolidation, but the index value for these purposes has been sitting at 42 for three weeks — only loans for vacations and weddings have a lower index value.

Best offered APRs dropped considerably for those with scores under 640 (although they are still much higher than pre-crisis) and rose for those with scores over 720 to the second-highest rates of 2020. Rates switched direction yet again for those with scores between 640 and 719, showing continued erraticism for middle-of-the-road borrowers.

Week of April 26

The week beginning April 26 was the calmest for personal loans since the first week of March, with offers and lender availability nearly unchanged from last week. The exception was for those with scores of at least 720, more of whom received lender offers and increased amounts offered.

Only marginally fewer people are seeking personal loans, and inquiries from consumers with scores of at least 720 actually picked up from the previous week. Lenders are meeting these potential borrowers at equitable or greater rates than before the coronavirus pandemic, with prime borrowers more likely to receive offers than at any other week in the year.

While much higher than any point prior to late March, the best offered APRs eased down or remained the same, except for those with scores between 680 to 719 (who saw best offers go up by 9 index points) and with scores between 640 and 679 whose best offers dropped by 10 points. Lenders have treated these groups erratically since the week of March 22: in particular, for scores between 680 and 719, the lowest offered APRs peaked during the week of March 29 at more than double what they were two weeks earlier.

Lenders offered amounts closer to those requested — a course change from the weeks beginning April 12 and April 19, despite similar amounts requested in those weeks. Nonetheless, the index value for offered amounts remains well below the index value of requested amounts. Once again, those with scores over 720 are the exception, with a one point gap between index values for requested and offered amounts, a decrease from the 8 and 9 point gaps of the previous two weeks.

Continuing last week’s trend, loan inquiries for major purchases and home improvement continued to rise last week, while debt consolidation and card refinancing remained unchanged from their lowest levels of the year.

Week of April 19

Personal loan inquiries are still trending downward, but at reduced velocity. The exception is for borrowers with scores of at least 720, who dropped 9 index points to their lowest value of the year. Nonetheless, their index value is 36 points higher than borrowers as a whole.

Best offered APRs eased down, except for those with scores between 640 and 679. Subprime borrowers have the lowest index value for best offers at 116, but a given swing in basis points makes less of a change because their baseline is so high. Baseline best APRs are much more sensitive to smaller absolute movements for those with higher scores, and it’s that midrange of borrowers between 620 and 719 who have seen the most volatility since the end of March.

Loan inquiries for major purchases and home improvement continued to perk up over the last week. Fewer people are seeking to consolidate or refinance existing debt or use funds for business purposes than at any time this year.

The gap between requested and offered loan amounts remains remarkably high, with the amount offered 18 index points below the amount requested. This is also the second week where the index value for offered amounts is lower than the amount requested from those with scores of at least 720. The amount they’re requesting has remained similar since the end of March and is only 3 points above the baseline.

Week of April 12

Personal loan inquiries continued their downward slide into record lows (the lowest index values) for all borrowers, except those with credit scores of at least 720. The number of inquiries from borrowers with the highest scores remains unchanged from last week.

The average best offered APRs fell for all borrowers over the last week, except those with scores of at least 720. Best offered APRs for the highest-scoring borrowers rose 30 index points in the last five weeks. This class of borrowers remain the most active in this environment, and they are receiving offers from lenders at the same rate they were at the start of the year, but at the highest prices of the year.

Loans for major purchases and home improvement picked up five index points each since last week. Fewer people are seeking to consolidate or refinance existing debt or for business purposes than at any time this year, despite the small bump last week in inquiries for the latter purpose.

The gap in index points between loan amounts requested and loan amounts offered was far and away the largest of the year. Amounts offered to borrowers with scores of at least 720 dropped 11 index points since last week, despite this group requesting similar amounts in the prior two weeks. This represents the first time amounts offered to high-score borrowers had a lower index value than the amount requested and, as mentioned above, these smaller loans come with higher APRs.

Week of April 5

Personal loan inquiries continued their downward slide into record lows (the lowest index values) for all borrowers, except those with credit scores of at least 720. While the rate of inquiries from that group is drastically lower than in the second half of March, rates were lower in February.

There was a slight uptick in loans for business purposes and home improvement, possibly because homeowners are using their time at home to complete all of those projects. Home improvement loans do go up this time of year, historically.

The average amount offered was the lowest since February, which opened the index point gap between amounts requested and amounts offered for the first time of the year (besides the one point gap during the last week of February).

Week of March 29

Personal loan inquiries continued their decline to calendar-year lows, although the drop off wasn’t as dramatic as the previous week.

Credit card refinancing and debt consolidation continue to be the most popular reasons to seek a personal loan, suggesting consumers are focusing on getting their finances in order during this crisis, but the number of inquiries for that reason hit the lowest level of the year.

Interest in personal loans for weddings and vacations continue to plummet to an index value of 19, from an index value of 24 in the previous week, 75 at the start of March and 83 at the beginning of February. Traditionally, these loan types are popular this time of year.

Only inquiries from people with credit scores of at least 720 are at their typical levels, following dramatic bursts over the previous two weeks. However, the number of inquiries that matched lender criteria and the number that received offers were at the lowest levels of the year, suggesting that lenders aren’t willing or able to keep up with these usually very desirable borrowers.

 The best APRs offered to prospective borrowers accelerated their two week skyward trajectory, with mid-range borrowers seeing the biggest shock. This could drive away borrowers seeking to lower interest rates on existing debt, but those hoping to free up their monthly cash flow may still find these terms acceptable and lenders could find opportunity to peel off high-score borrowers with better (if still high) rates.

The gap between total inquiries and inquiries that matched lender criteria widened to a modest 5 points, but that’s still the biggest difference of the year. Yet, the gap between total inquiries and the subset that received offers is lower than it was from late January through early February.

Week of March 22

Personal loan inquiries dropped to the lowest levels of the year, likely due to a drop in luxury spending combined with greater confidence in covering necessary expenses thanks to the coronavirus stimulus bill signed late March.

Credit card refinancing and debt consolidation are the only loan purposes that didn’t hit their lowest levels of the year, suggesting consumers are focusing on getting their finances in order during this crisis. These categories jumped to 62% of the stated loan purposes from an average of 56% in January and February.

Interest in personal loans for weddings and vacations plummeted to an index value of 24, from an index value of 75 at the start of March and 83 at the beginning of February. Traditionally, these loan types are popular this time of year.

This was also the first week of the year where the number of inquiries that matched lender criteria dropped more than the overall number of inquiries. The number of inquiries that received lender offers also dropped in tandem, but the difference was larger earlier in the year.

Methodology

The weekly number of personal loan inquiries submitted through the LendingTree personal loan platform has been indexed to Jan. 5, 2020, across the following categories:

  • Number of queries
  • Number of those inquiries that were to at least one active lender’s criteria
  • Number of inquiries that received at least one loan offer
  • Number of prospective borrowers who selected one of various purposes for the loan
  • Percentage of borrowers who selected one of various purposes for the loan
  • Average amount borrowers requested
  • Average amount they were offered by lenders
  • Average best offered APR to borrowers within various credit score ranges

The percentage of people seeking personal loans for selected purposes was calculated for each state for the current week and for the same week one year ago.

The inquiries are limited to those received through organic search and offline advertising, as changes in online marketing strategies can alter the number and types of inquiries irrespective of organic interest in this product from the general public.

 

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